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Subject: Review of Agricola rss

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Martí Cabré

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I remember the promotion for Agricola: animal meeples in the form of sheep, pigs and cows. So cute. A big step forward from abstract colored wooden cubes, I think. Now if only other edible and building materials also had different forms...

Agricola is a gamer's game, a nicely presented boardgame that under a seemingly peaceful disguise hides a multilayered highly competitive strategy game. I think that hardcore strategy gamers will enjoy it the most. Agricola opened Uwe Rosenberg's "Harvest Trilogy" of games that focus on preparing your actions now so they bloom on later turns. But it is also a worker placement game, where other opponents can shun your plans for the turn by selecting specific actions before you. And it is also a resource game where you harvest raw materials to produce better ones which will provide you with more and better actions.

So, what's it like? Agricola comes in a big sturdy box full (really full) of components: wooden animal meeples (if you got the promotion, I did) and resource discs. Cardboard templates for each player to develop each farm, a center board with actions and lots and lots of cards. Lots of them. At first it can be overwhelming, but after a dozen plays or so you learn to put each card in play. There is an option to play Agricola without cards (Family play, it's called), but I only recommend it to play once or twice to grasp the basic game mechanics and then always play with cards. I have completed about fifty games now, both multiplayer live, solo and on the iPad and must say that cards give the game a depth and fun factor that make it shine.

On Agricola you'll use your farmers to select a number of jobs which will expand turn by turn. Only a single farmer can be in each action space so players block each other continously. When all the farmers from all players have been placed, they are collected and a new turn begins. Each turn a new action will be available in the center board, along with all the older actions, so there will be more options for the players. But there will be also more farmers as the players can create new farmers and you'll need more and more resources to build better improvements in your farmer's house. And for me the key of the game, along with a clockwork distribution of resources and actions, is in the theme. From the first moment you don't think in terms of colored tokens or moving into spaces but you think in terms of farmers, chopping wood, buying a sheep or having a son to help you with the farm chores. And that is where a game goes from being good to being excellent. Immersion.

The graphical design of Agricola is crucial for the immersion, as the half realistic half comic representation of the farmers, along with many tongue-in-cheek jokes both for the casual gamer and the connoisseur (the boardgames in the farm rooms, the portraits on some cards, the effect of some actions) makes it really pleasant and fun to play. I can't resist smiling when I reread some card with a minor object or a profession and see what they did there. Bohnanza? Obelix? There are dozens of references there.

But the game itself would only be so-soish if it had good graphics in a mediocre system. And Agricola's system is top-notch. You need to do so many things and the other players are continously bugging you by taking those actions and resources... Well, choose to be first player! But harvest is coming and you don't have the food, better go fishing in the lake, right? If only I had built that fishing rod when I could... Agricola is full of hard decisions turn by turn that make you want to play the game again and again to check new strategies. And the fact that only a handful of the dozens of cards is used in each game (and only a few of them will enter play) makes each game really different with many combo plays still to be discovered.

Agricola is a great game to spend a couple of hours with hardcore strategy gamers, not recommended for the casual players, and it yields a good fun factor for the time invested in it.
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Nigel Clarke
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marticabre wrote:
Now if only other edible and building materials also had different forms...


They do have different forms:
http://www.boardgameextras.co.uk/item.php?id=336&name=Wooden...
for example.
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Martí Cabré

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banzai123 wrote:
marticabre wrote:
Now if only other edible and building materials also had different forms...


They do have different forms:
http://www.boardgameextras.co.uk/item.php?id=336&name=Wooden...
for example.


Wow, these are cute extras. Thanks!
 
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